If you’re aiming to get into a good college, you’ve probably already knocked yourself out studying for SATs, sweated your grades, and packed your resume with extracurriculars. Now, all that’s standing between you and your dream school is that blank piece of paper you need to turn into a killer college essay.
If you’re intimidated by the essay, or at a loss for what to say, relax. Here’s a quick guide to nailing your essay. In two words? Be yourself.
You wanted more help? See below:
1. Read the instructions
Each college offers guidelines for what they expect in an essay. Some colleges want to learn about you. Some want you to write about why you’re right for their college. Some give you a topic you have to write about. Others don’t give a lot of direction.
2. Pick a good topic
College admissions officers learn about who you are in part from your topic choice – so pick something that reflects your interests and your values.
Admissions counselors say the best essays are well-focused. So don’t bite off too big of a topic. The Middle East crisis is the kind of topic you can fall into and drown, but writing about your Lebanese pen-pal might give you a personal way to discuss it.
3. Be stylin’
Your writing style will also say something to the admissions staff. Are you funny, analytical, freewheeling, methodical? Your approach to your topic, your tone and the way you organize material will all communicate something about you.
4. Get writing
If you’re stumped and can’t seem to get anything onto the page, try to finish this sentence: “My best quality is ______.” Free-associate or brainstorm with a friend about ideas. If this fails, try calling a friend on the phone. Give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to tell them a story from your life that reveals something important about you.
5. Spit out a draft already
There are several ways to organize your essay. You can tell a story from beginning to end, chronologically. You can write about a single idea or facet of your personality or life. Try to offer specific details rather than generalities.
6. Feedback and editing
Don’t churn out a first draft, pat yourself on the back, and call it done. Get several people you trust to read your essay and make suggestions. Proof repeatedly for typos. Buff and polish until it’s the best essay you can possibly write.